Dominican Republic: Getting Closer

The Dominican Republic boasts both boutique hotels and grand, gated mega-resorts, and where you choose to stay reveals your intentions. While some visitors may be looking to de-stress in elegant surroundings, it's a safe bet to say that others will want to make a direct connection with the destination. Many of the boutique properties provide easy access to intriguing towns and attractions.

The Victorian House makes it convenient for guests to get out and explore the town of Sosua. In addition to shops and restaurants, Sosua-bound visitors may be interested in the town's history as a refuge for European Jews fleeing the Nazis during World War II. Here they'll find synagogues as well as restaurants serving Austrian and German cuisine.  The Casa Colonial is near Puerto Plata, a great town for walking around.

Casa Colonial is a short taxi ride from the historic seaside town of Puerto Plata. This is a great walking town, with restored Creole and Victorian era houses. The open-air bar Eskina is a neighborhood gathering spot in the middle of town—a friendly, no-frills venue that's great for people watching. Throughout the night, locals wander in for a quick drink and gossip and then depart. The owner, a former jazz drummer who played in Cuba, spins one great song after another, from jazz standards to Barry White. If you want to order a Presidente beer like a local, ask for it, "in a wedding dress." This is the way Dominicans describe the beads of frost on an ice-cold brew.

The roads in the Dominican Republic have been much improved, and experienced drivers might want to rent a car and get out to explore. Not too many Caribbean destinations can claim the historic attractions that can be found in the D.R., and near the top of the list of any road trip is a visit to the historic capital city of Santo Domingo, the oldest colonial city in the Caribbean, dating back to 1493. Cigar 101

Santo Domingo is a fast-paced city of 200,000, and could be the perfect antidote when things get a little too laid back at the hotel. For those who prefer not to drive, there are plenty of options for scheduled sightseeing excursions by bus, or private taxi rentals. The capital's colonial city is a walker's delight—chief among its attractions are the Castle of Columbus, also known as the Alcazar de Colon. Santo Domingo, with its seaside malecon, has echoes of Havana—in fact, the capital stands in for Havana during many movie shoots, including "The Godfather II." Robert De Niro recently wrapped filming for "The Good Shepherd"—starring Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie—in the Dominican Republic.

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